Five Wide Fullbacks: Coaching Jobs Filling Fast

Welcome back to the latest edition of Five Wide Fullbacks! Today we will discuss the shrinking of Notre Dame’s recruiting class, ranking the new college football coaching hires, the best under-the-radar bowl teams, misconceptions about the Irish, and updates to the infamous Top 75 Losses in Notre Dame History.

1 Notre Dame lost a commit this weekend as in-state running back Markese Stepp will no longer be Irish. Will the 2018 situation at running back be a struggle or will it be secretly a quality group?

The easiest way to start off is that Stepp probably wasn’t going to be a factor next year anyway which isn’t a surprise. He had an injury filled high school career, including a very up and down senior season in which he couldn’t get 1,000 rushing yards. He was probably headed for a low 80’s grade from me in our National Signing Day review–decent player but more of a luxury.

That said, if we’re assuming Josh Adams is headed for the pros I’m a little worried about the running backs with the caveat that this is a position Notre Dame typically develops players quickly, so being young isn’t necessarily that big of a deal. Still, I’m sensing more of a 2013-14 running back situation which wasn’t great.

Dexter Williams could absolutely blow up and it wouldn’t shock anyone. He did average almost 9 yards a carry during the regular season! Still, can he stay healthy? Can we see him flip from someone who has provided plenty of excuses (blocking, pass catching) to the unquestioned starter? He doesn’t have 100 carries in his career, can he suddenly carry the rock 150 times as a senior?

I’m not sold on Tony Jones’ speed allowing him to be the premier back and his hands are supposed to be so good yet he matched Dexter with a measly 13 receiving yards. Still, he has room to get better. Same goes for Deon McIntosh who, all things considered, was a major surprise this year and might be someone who develops into a very good running back.

C.J. Holmes is the X-factor with a good mix of size and speed. He might be the surprise player pushing for starter minutes after a strong spring. If his development is a little slower that’s not the worst thing in the world because 4 bodies is a lot in practice. But someone has to really step up.

2 College football head coaching jobs have been in the process of being filled. RANK THEM.

Arkansas – Chad Morris

His deep roots in Texas might open up a nice pipeline for the Hogs. His offense should bring a welcome change to Fayetteville, too. Steady improvement at SMU featuring a winning record in 2017 while scoring 40 per game. Grade: B+

Arizona State – Herm Edwards

The Sun Devils kept all of their assistants so they essentially wrote a $12 million check to swap Todd Graham with Herm Edwards. It’s so spectacularly bad maybe it’s genius? Once this stops being funny a year and a half in things could get ugly in the desert. Grade: D-

Florida – Dan Mullen

Is it safe to say this should’ve been the hiring after the Muschamp disaster? I guess you could argue it was a short 2 years and Mullen is probably more qualified to coach the Gators via further experience. Grade: B

Florida State – Willie Taggart

Quite the rise for Taggart who goes from Western Kentucky to Tallahassee in just a little over 5 years. I can’t say I’m too opinionated on him in either direction but something smells like he’s going to struggle and not work out too well. Losing a national championship coach and pretty much lucking into a similar or better situation after quickly scrambling seems a little too, lucky, to me. Grade C+

Georgia Southern – Chad Lunsford

I don’t know this person.

Mississippi State – Joe Moorhead

Moorehead comes with a very strong offensive pedigree. I’m more concerned about him replacing the greatest modern coach in school history and looking like a guy who’s 44 going on 60. Grade: B

Nebraska – Scott Frost

The Huskers just aren’t going to find better timing nor someone with a higher ceiling. Although, it’s kind of crazy that Frost has only coached 25 career games. Grade: A

Ole Miss – Matt Luke

He’s going to have quite the hole to dig out from and realistically won’t be given the time to really do so. That, or he’s probably a poor head coach. At least he’ll be paid well. Grade: D+

Oregon State – Jonathan Smith

The Beavers might as well try the young former quarterback coming back to his alma mater. What do they have to lose at this point? Smith has a pretty nice resume in his short career, too. Grade: B

Rice – Mike Bloomgren

This is an awful job for just about anyone. In Bloomgren’s case it’s a nice little bump from being an offensive line coach. Rice has to be pretty happy about trying to re-create some of Stanford’s culture. Grade: B

Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher

This is so weird. I believe I heard Fisher is the only coach in 40 years to win a title at his current school and voluntarily leave for another school. Somehow he leaves for a tougher job with arguably a less patient fan base. And he’ll have the largest coaching contract ever floating over him. Good luck! Grade: B-

UCF – Josh Heupel

The former Sooner quarterback did some nice things at Missouri recently but hasn’t set the world on fire since leaving Norman as a coach. As Frost proved this is a sneaky great job for the right coach. There are big shoes to fill. Grade: C

UCLA – Chip Kelly

The ever-so-popularly used but usually not quite so, the home run hire! Grade: A+

3 Heading into bowl season which 3 programs had an under-the-radar quality season that more people should be talking about?

FIU (8-4)

Any other damn year and this is a huge story. There was just way too many other stories in the state of Florida to compete. Butch Davis is definitely DGT™ and has the chance to win 9 games for the first time ever in school history.

UAB (8-4)

Bill Clark should win national coach of the year after resurrecting this dead program. This is an awesome story!

New Mexico State (6-6)

This was Doug Martin’s 12th season as a head coach, and 5th with the Aggies. Amazingly this ties his career high for wins! It’s also the first time NMSU is going bowling in my lifetime.

4 Out of the many misconceptions about Notre Dame which one drives you the most nuts?

I often hear about how a pro-style offense fits Notre Dame’s recruiting profile but is that really true? For one, the Irish have had one 6-year period of dominance since the IBM computer debuted and it wasn’t with anything close to a pro-style offense. The position of tight end gets tossed out there quite a bit but that was under-used during that reign and the record-breaking Tyler Eifert didn’t play in a pro-style offense.

How far do you have to go back where Notre Dame was using a successful offensive system that mirrored the pro ranks? You have to go back a really, really long time.

But we can recruit big offensive linemen! Okay, but you can use them to run many different systems. If I hear one more time that the Irish should emulate Wisconsin’s system, I swear. You expect that and you’ll get Michigan’s, no thanks.

I hear people say it fits our profile when I translate that to “let’s run a system that isn’t popular, few elite teams run successfully, and has little historical ties to our school. And hey we can get away with mediocre quarterback and receiever play because grit or something.”

5 Prior to the 2014 season you published the Top 75 losses in Notre Dame history that captivated the internet. Have there been any new losses since that would make a re-published list today?

Remember, my formula ranked the losses in descending order based on championship implications, bad losses (either by margin or to poor teams), the big stage, the subjectivity of pain, and rivalry factor. Back then, 5 losses from the Kelly era made the list:

#68, 2010 Tulsa
#56, 2011 USF
#33, 2010 Navy
#27, 2011 Michigan
#9, 2012 Alabama

We’ve witnessed 19 losses since the list was originally published. Here are the ones I think deserve consideration in some form:

2014, FSU

Everything from this season is tough to look back with hindsight knowing BVG’s defense was going to slowly crumble and injuries devastated the roster. This one scores incredibly high on the big stage and pain.

2014, Northwestern

Technically, 3 of the wheels fell off the week prior against Arizona State and this was the final wheel. Again, hindsight clouds this loss with Cody Riggs and Austin Collinsworth playing key roles on defense. Plus, the Wildcats were a bad team but not really that bad. They did beat a ranked Wisconsin team and almost upset Michigan the prior week. So this would get high bad loss points and a little bit of pain.

2014, USC

I felt like this game or the ASU one mentioned above could make the list but chose this one because of the rivalry factor. Plus, the Irish did show a pulse in the second half in Tempe. This game was over in a hurry.

2015, Clemson

The twin brother to the previous year’s loss at FSU, except we didn’t play as well. In a way, that makes this one easier to take I think. Realistically knowing what we know now about Clemson I’m okay believing the weather mucked this one up in our favor. As the only loss in the first 11 games this has to score high championship, big stage, and pain points.

2016, Duke

This one scores so many bad loss points. The Blue Devils lost 8 games and only beat 1 other Power 5 program (North Carolina, by 1 point) in addition to defeating Notre Dame.

2017, Miami

The ’14 USC game is the biggest loss for Kelly by points but this game against Miami is second and given the differences in the seasons to their respective points far more painful.

For me, the ’16 Duke and ’17 Miami games would crack the Top 75 list today. I really have a tough time putting anything from 2014 because of all those injuries but all 3 would easily make the Top 100, I think. That leaves the ’15 Clemson and I’d probably err on the side of caution adding it but maybe could be convinced otherwise.

By |2018-05-09T22:25:43+00:00December 7th, 2017|18S Reads|31 Comments

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The Herm Edwards hire is unusual, and finding success with him may be difficult, but it not as bad as “D” grade. There have been a lot if successful figurehead programs, and ASU probably needs more than a good X’s and O’s guy to elevate itself in the PAC12. He only has three jobs in this role:. Wow parents on recruiting visits, to be the face if the program to insulate the assistant from scrutiny, and be a sort of pied Piper for ASU. I doubt highly he’s going to do much actual coaching.

Brendan R

It seems ill-considered on their part, which is probably where most of the concern comes from. In addition to E’s embedded tweet above, there was a video clip from his introductory press conference making the rounds because it showed him having no idea what the team nickname was. He went in on a guy (good-naturedly, of course, because he’s Herm) for being from, completely oblivious to the fact that ASU is the Sun Devils.

That’s not a great look for ASU, nor is the fact that the current AD is Herm’s former agent. Maybe it’ll work, but it has a veneer of a guy giving his buddy a golden parachute semi-retirement job with little though for the actual needs of the business, as it were.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

I was going to point that out too with him not wanting “devil talk” and seemingly not realizing he was coaching the Sun Devils. Very odd at best, borderline clueless at worst.

Seems like a trainwreck waiting to happen and an one that could have have been easily avoidable, which makes it all the funnier. I guess in ASU’s perfect world Herm is like Joe Gibbs 2.0 coming back after 12 years away, but resume-wise Edwards is very far from Joe Gibbs, who had his own struggles and the game had passed him by. That thought was big in my head while watching that “is that a girl’s jersey?” video. Don’t see this one ending well at all for them.


Why didn’t/couldn’t Herm Edwards hire any assistants?


I am surprised the Stanford loss is not on the list – maybe not top 75 but as painful as many others on the list and it kept the Irish from a top 6 bowl game.

Brendan R

Fun quirk of history: New Mexico State will attempt to post back-to-back bowl wins over the same team, 57 years apart. Their Arizona Bowl opponent this year is Utah State; their last bowl appearance was the 1960 Sun Bowl, in which they defeated Utah State 20-13.


Now go find out how many times the Aggies have faced the Aggies


On a scale of 1 to “fire everybody involved immediately,” how dumb is this decision to move the Syracuse game to New York? I’m leaning towards the latter.


Unlike this year, we will at least have an excuse for fading down the stretch. The Syracuse move makes the second half of the schedule brutal.

Brendan R

Pretty dumb. Kelly said something recently about possibly being more careful about late-season scheduling given our South Bend/Miami/South Bend (against Navy!)/Palo Alto finish to this season. So of course, for 2018, we’re doing San Diego/Chicago/South Bend (against FSU!)/New York/LA in consecutive weeks. BK clearly has clout with the schedule makers…

Also worth noting that moving the Syracuse home game to NYC means that FSU will be our Senior Day game. One is tempted to wonder if it’s intentional – maybe Loki is setting the schedules or something.


They also released the schedules for 2019 and 2020, and they’re both… not great, at best.

I’m not sure if (a) it’s impossible to schedule well as an independent or (b) our schedulers are incompetent (of course it’s possible for both to be true, but based on the evidence I don’t think one can say neither are true). But it seems like either we should just suck it up and join a conference (I’m disinclined to this), or some folks in the athletic department need a new job.

But in any case moving this Syracuse game is just shooting yourself in the foot. ND needs to stop acting like it’s hard-up for cash and attention.

Brendan R

In terms of travel and bunching of quality, I don’t think 2019 is too bad:
2019: @ L’ville, Off, New Mexico, @ UGA, UVA, Bowling Green, USC, Off, @ Mich, VT, @ Duke, Navy, BC, @ Stanford

No insane weekly criss-crossing of the continent, at least. 2020, on the other hand, looks a little less favorable.

2020: @ Navy (MetLife), Arkansas, WMU, @ Wake (Charlotte), Wisconsin (Lambeau), Stanford, @ Pitt, Off, Duke, Clemson, @ GT, L’ville, @ USC

I don’t love the stretch of Carolina, Lambeau, vs. Stanford, @ Pitt. Seems primed for Pitt to once again be a letdown game. And the final stretch of Clemson, Atlanta, L’ville, and LA seems less than ideal. That’s a frequent flyer’s dream.

But like you say, nothing in there touches moving the 2018 Syracuse game. They should’ve at least done Soldier Field or Indianapolis or something, no need to go all the way to NYC. Dumb.


The main issue with the 2019 schedule is all those “@“s – 4 legit hard away games seems to automatically set a ceiling for the season at 10-2. It’d be a very good schedule if two of those swapped with a couple of the non-USC home games. Relatedly, I wonder if that terrible home slate is a reason they moved the Syracuse game – as a favor to NBC for the terrible ratings they’re going to be getting in 2019 given the uninteresting home opposition.

And, yes, those last four games in 2020 appears brutal. Hopefully Georgia Tech isn’t running the option at that point and it’ll be a little more manageable.

Brendan R

Ah, I see what you’re saying. Yes, as of right now it looks like one of the tougher road schedules in recent memory. Condensing: L’ville, Georgia, Michigan, Duke, Stanford. On the flip side, the home schedule is indeed pretty awful: NM, UVA, BG, USC, VT, Navy, BC. Gotta figure they’ll steal one of those for the Shamrock game, though; I’m guessing either NM or BG. Even so, blech.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

“Forget “New” Mexico…Let’s expand the Shamrock Series and bring this game with an Irish twist to Mexico City!” — Someone in the athletic department, probably

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

It certainly shows that Notre Dame football isn’t singularly focused on a national title. Decisions like this are evident that to an extent they’re balancing exposure, money, prestige and attention more than solely chasing the playoff. In an ideal world, they would match other contenders and play a FCS school the week before Thanksgiving like the SEC teams do.

Also why probably 10-3 isn’t seen in the athletic department as purgatory or in need of change. They simply make it too difficult on themselves to expect perfection.

I don’t believe it’s that much of a scheduling issue, they’re able to get SEC series, Michigan, Ohio State series in the future, decent enough ACC competition to build a resume and the yearly rivals are locked in. The committee has shown they’ll put in an 11-1 non conference champion over a 2-loss P5 champ. The more controllable issue seems to how they’re scheduling and making it more difficult than it needs to be to more realistically get to 11-1. I don’t even believe it’s truly incompetence so much as just trying to accomplish too much and not being as dialed in for success.


Hell, I bet the athletic department sees 8-5 as good record, as long as it gives us more exposure. This is the kind of shortsighted garbage that ignores whether the actual product is any good in favor of near-term cash grabs. Everything in 2016 was focused on the stadium project to the point where no one was apparently checking on the football team’s day-to-day, and now that they have the big honking renovation done, they can’t sell it out. I’m worried that we’re about to enter a death spiral where the fan base just tunes out.


Stolen from a comment on TOOS:

Miles travelling – big time programs 2018:
– Alabama (1,941 Miles)
– Ohio State (2,276)
– Oklahoma (2,475)
– Georgia (2,249)
– USC (3,125)
– Texas (3,899)
Average (2,660.83)
Notre Dame: (6,294)

This is so dumb. I’ll keep being the “are we sure Jack Swarbrick is doing an acceptable job overseeing the football program?” guy until there’s evidence I’m wrong about it.


Let me caveat this: all of Swarbrick’s recent *public* moves have been terrible (Under Armour deal right before UA went in the tank and became not-cool, BK contract extension, these schedules/reinstating his Shamrock Series pet project after they spent hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading the stadium). However, it has been widely rumored that he forced BK to fire Longo/BVG and not hire from his own coaching twig. If that’s true, that is good.

Of course, the jury is still out on whether retaining BK was the right move program-wise; I think we’ll know at this time in a year.

Also, if he is responsible for this video, I take it all back:


I’m sure recency bias is in play, but this year’s Miami game would be in my Top 10.